As equestrians, it’s sometimes difficult for us to express to other just how much our horses mean to us; how much they enrich our lives and give us things that nothing else can give us. Having a horse isn’t just “a hobby”, it’s a way of life that we have all come to know and appreciate, and the thought of living without it is as foreign as stepping into a strange land where we don’t know the language. In trying to explain my love of horses to my non-horse-owner friends, I find myself continuously echoing three lessons that only my horse could teach me.
Be Content with The Little Things
Whether it’s reaching down to grab that perfect bite of fresh, green grass or curling a lip while getting a good grooming with a nice curry brush, horses are truly complex creatures who have simple needs. I’m always amazed at the curiosity and general wonderment that my horse expresses over things that are so very basic. I’m also amazed by how quickly my horse can switch out of “serious mode” and into a place of contentment with the things that serve her most basic of needs. We can spend an hour in the arena working on the intricacies of flying changes, and while my mind is still racing with thoughts and implications of our ride, my horse is able to reach down on the way back from the arena to swipe that piece of tasty alfalfa that fell out of the feed cart.
My horse has taught me to “not sweat the small stuff”, and to truly “be content with the little things” time and time again. It’s a skill that I’m continuously learning to perfect, but one that I know no one could ever teach me better than my horse.
Live in the Moment
We’ve all been there…a horse show or trail ride that we have planned and prepared for arrives and our horse just isn’t “on”. Frustration sets in, anxiety accumulates, nothing goes as planned and by the time we are heading back to the barn we’re upset. It eats at us overnight; we think about all of the things that we could have done differently and we wonder why our horse just couldn’t perform as we know he can. The next morning when we arrive at the barn we’re still thinking about the missed opportunity or the bad showing that we’ve made, and yet our horse is standing with his head over the stall door, ears pricked forward, and nickering a happy welcome. He’s not thinking about the day before, only about what the new day has to offer.
Our heart melts. As much as we would like to attribute human characteristics to our horses, they are truly creatures who have perfected living in the moment. We can have the worst ride or get the poorest score we’ve ever gotten one day, and the next our horse is ready to start over and give us his all again. I have learned from my horse that it doesn’t solve anything to dwell on the past or worry about the future; living in the moment is what counts.
Be Gentle, Be Calm
More than any other relationship in my life, my horse has most aptly illustrated the benefits of being gentle and being calm. It took me a long time to really realize that my moods directly affect my horse’s moods. If I’m anxious, my horse is going to be anxious. If I’m rough or harsh, my horse is going to match that with attitude and discontent. If I’m calm and gentle, my horse is going to be softer and more relaxed. It’s a simple lesson, but one that takes many of us a lifetime in the saddle to truly learn. In life, when a situation arises where I have to choose whether to be harsh or gentle, I always think about my relationship with my horse and how much more I get out of her when I am kind and easy.
Our horses are some of the best teachers that we will ever have. What they illustrate so beautifully in their innocent and trusting way, we can apply to our own lives a thousand times over. There are lessons that only our horse could teach us better than anyone else if we’re open to listening and understanding them.
Cover Photo: Sharon Jantzen at Vintage Cowboy Winery